the income and product sides of the national accounts and the payroll and employment estimates. Preliminary employment figures, indicators, and extrapolators, which are used in BEA’s early estimates, as well as its models and projections, may be improved through data sharing and fuller access to data that capture accounting and other business changes. The extent to which sharing would help overcome problems of data disruptions, such as from natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, is unclear, but allowing agencies to compare notes could help fill the gaps.
During open discussion, Carol Corrado noted that some discrepancies are informative. She pointed out that analysts at the Federal Reserve Board look at differences across data series to piece together analytical insights. Identifying sources of discrepancies requires access to data to determine if there is a difference in exporting between the Census Bureau and the BLS forms, a difference in the interpretation of language, or something else. Fixler noted that, under current constraints, this capability is limited, as restrictions on federal tax information typically do not allow for adequate analysis below the aggregate levels. Fixler stressed that data sharing cannot solve all discrepancies, but it will allow analysts to better understand the source of the differences and provide policy makers with a clearer picture of what is happening in the economy.